For many years, scientists suspected that the interstellar medium was too hostile for organic species and that only a few simple molecules could be formed under such extreme conditions. However, the detection of approximately 180 molecules in interstellar or circumstellar environments in recent decades has changed this view dramatically. A rich chemistry has emerged, and relatively complex molecules such as C60 and C70 are formed. Recently, researchers have also detected complex organic and potentially prebiotic molecules, such as amino acids, in meteorites and in other space environments. Those discoveries have further stimulated the debate on the origin of the building blocks of life in the universe. Many efforts continue to focus on the physical, chemical, and astrophysical processes by which prebiotic molecules can be formed in the interstellar dust and dispersed to Earth or to other planets.Spectroscopic techniques, which are widely used to infer information about molecular structure and dynamics, play a crucial role in the investigation of planetary atmosphere and the interstellar medium. Increasingly these astrochemical investigations are assisted by quantum-mechanical calculations of structures as well as spectroscopic and thermodynamic properties, such as transition frequencies and reaction enthalpies, to guide and support observations, line assignments, and data analysis in these new and chemically complicated situations. However, it has proved challenging to extend accurate quantum-chemical computational approaches to larger systems because of the unfavorable scaling with the number of degrees of freedom (both electronic and nuclear).In this Account, we show that it is now possible to compute physicochemical properties of building blocks of biomolecules with an accuracy rivaling that of the most sophisticated experimental techniques, and we summarize specific contributions from our groups. As a test case, we present the underlying computational machinery through the investigation of oxirane. We describe how we determine the molecular structure and then how we characterize the rotational and IR spectra, the most important issues for a correct theoretical description and a proper comparison with experiment. Next, we analyze the spectroscopic properties of representative building blocks of DNA bases (uracil and pyrimidine) and of proteins (glycine and glycine dipeptide analogue).Solvation, surface chemistry (dust fraction, adsorption, desorption), and inter- and intramolecular interactions, such as self-organization and self-interaction, are important molecular processes for understanding astrochemistry. Using the specific cases of uracil dimers and glycine adsorbed on silicon grains, we also illustrate approaches in which we treat different regions, interactions, or effects at different levels of sophistication.

Quantum Chemistry Meets Spectroscopy for Astrochemistry: Increasing Complexity toward Prebiotic Molecules

BARONE, Vincenzo;BICZYSKO, MALGORZATA AGNIESZKA;PUZZARINI, Cristina
2015

Abstract

For many years, scientists suspected that the interstellar medium was too hostile for organic species and that only a few simple molecules could be formed under such extreme conditions. However, the detection of approximately 180 molecules in interstellar or circumstellar environments in recent decades has changed this view dramatically. A rich chemistry has emerged, and relatively complex molecules such as C60 and C70 are formed. Recently, researchers have also detected complex organic and potentially prebiotic molecules, such as amino acids, in meteorites and in other space environments. Those discoveries have further stimulated the debate on the origin of the building blocks of life in the universe. Many efforts continue to focus on the physical, chemical, and astrophysical processes by which prebiotic molecules can be formed in the interstellar dust and dispersed to Earth or to other planets.Spectroscopic techniques, which are widely used to infer information about molecular structure and dynamics, play a crucial role in the investigation of planetary atmosphere and the interstellar medium. Increasingly these astrochemical investigations are assisted by quantum-mechanical calculations of structures as well as spectroscopic and thermodynamic properties, such as transition frequencies and reaction enthalpies, to guide and support observations, line assignments, and data analysis in these new and chemically complicated situations. However, it has proved challenging to extend accurate quantum-chemical computational approaches to larger systems because of the unfavorable scaling with the number of degrees of freedom (both electronic and nuclear).In this Account, we show that it is now possible to compute physicochemical properties of building blocks of biomolecules with an accuracy rivaling that of the most sophisticated experimental techniques, and we summarize specific contributions from our groups. As a test case, we present the underlying computational machinery through the investigation of oxirane. We describe how we determine the molecular structure and then how we characterize the rotational and IR spectra, the most important issues for a correct theoretical description and a proper comparison with experiment. Next, we analyze the spectroscopic properties of representative building blocks of DNA bases (uracil and pyrimidine) and of proteins (glycine and glycine dipeptide analogue).Solvation, surface chemistry (dust fraction, adsorption, desorption), and inter- and intramolecular interactions, such as self-organization and self-interaction, are important molecular processes for understanding astrochemistry. Using the specific cases of uracil dimers and glycine adsorbed on silicon grains, we also illustrate approaches in which we treat different regions, interactions, or effects at different levels of sophistication.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11384/60676
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